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Mao as Object of Steamy Desire? It’s Riling Up Some in China

Dorothy Solinger, a political-science professor who specializes in Chinese politics at the University of California, Irvine, said some people in China still want Mao “to remain above the fray and be superhuman.”

“It could be that the people who are protesting something about Mao’s personal life object to this trivializing of him by making him seem human,” Ms. Solinger said.

The “Trust in China” show features celebrities reading the letters of more than 100 national heroes and heroines from 1921, the year the Communist Party of China was founded. The show is intended to display the “humanitarian side” of party members, according to the Chinese news media.

On one website, the episode on Mao was viewed 1.7 million times. The Chinese actress Han Xue recited the letter against a simulated backdrop of a forest, where it was supposedly found. Before her performance, she said she felt a “little stressed” about having to read it to the public.

As her eyes welled with tears, Ms. Han cited Ms. Yang as writing to Mao: “I want to kiss your eyes, your cheeks, your mouth, your forehead and your head a hundred times, you are mine and you belong to me.”

But Chinese internet users were less than enthusiastic. One person published a statement online under the name Yunfeiyang2046, saying that the show “pained him” and caused him to lose sleep. He demanded a public apology.

“Instead of remembering the martyrs and defending their dignity and inheriting their spirit, you’re giving fodder to gossips and using the opportunity to gain eyeballs and ratings,” he wrote.

But many were supportive of the letter, saying that it presented a more rounded image of Mao.

“People are complicated, you can have a glorious side and an ordinary side, but heroic leaders are all produced among the people,” Zhang Ding, head of the family letter research center at Renmin University in Beijing, said in a telephone interview.

Under President Xi Jinping, the Communist Party has imposed even tighter restrictions on any debate about Mao. In 2015, a Chinese television celebrity, Bi Fujian, was investigated for mocking Mao at a dinner banquet.

The state media is also fond of playing up the relationship between Mr. Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, often portraying them as a loving couple.

But discussions about the love lives of Chinese leaders are only allowed on the party’s terms. In 2015, five booksellers from Hong Kong, who sold books with topics such as the love life of Mr. Xi, went missing. They turned up later in the custody of the Chinese authorities.

Source: NYT > World

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